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Sewanee grants request for same-sex blessing in All Saints’ Chapel

Sewanee grants request for same-sex blessing in All Saints’ Chapel

Via email, a message from the Vice Chancellor of The University of the South:

Dear Members of the Faculty and Staff,

Last week I wrote to you about a matter concerning the University policy on the blessing of same-sex relationships.

Over the past week, the Chaplain and I, along with the Chancellor and Regent Bishops, have been in lengthy discussions about how to accommodate the request to allow the blessing of a same-sex relationship after the couple making the request has already had a civil marriage. This particular scenario, highly improbable in December 2012, when only six states (four in New England) plus the District of Columbia permitted same-sex marriage, will become increasingly likely, now that nineteen states permit same-sex marriage and in seven additional states the matter is currently in the courts. We have been assisted by Professor Jim Turrell, whose expertise in the field of liturgics has led to the crafting of a liturgy to be used specifically in those cases where a same-sex couple has already had a civil marriage. As a result, the request to confer a blessing in All Saints’ Chapel has been granted.

I extend my deepest appreciation to all of those involved in the resolution of this issue, which has been handled in the best tradition of our University, with civility, reason, and, above all, an open mind.

John McCardell


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Gary Paul Gilbert

It sounds like an institution trying to catch up with the spread of civil marriage equality. It could be worse, but it could also be much better. I wish the denomination were more pro-active in advocating for treating legally married same-sex couples the same as legally married sex-discordant couples.

I would not choose to have a special blessing for my civil marriage I got in Montreal in 2005. This seems to be the religious equivalent of civil unions, which confuse people and fail to provide the same protections as civil marriage.

Religious marriage, like civil marriage, should be open to all couples regardless of the legal sex of the parties.

Gary Paul Gilbert

matthew koz

Important Correction: The rite is properly entitled, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” as found in the full report, “I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.”

matthew koz


Your comment is insightful, and it actually applies to the Episcopal Church as a whole. Not just Sewanne

As you may know, at the last General Convention, a rite was approved for trial use called “I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.”

This was prepared, along with a report, through the very hard work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.

The message, at least for now, is that blessings of same-sex relationships necessitates a unique rite.

The adaptation of marriage rites from the BCP has not been approved by General Convention. In other words, the Episcopal Church has not given the option of simply changing the words in the BCP rites.

While many people feel the same as you, the Episcopal Church (as expressed by General Convention) has moved toward a paradigm which (for now) holds same-sex blessings as unique.

Have we created “different classes” of marriage, as you suggest?

It is up to each to interpret that.

Of course, there will be a new report coming at the next GC which will likely chart a new course.

Thanks for the discussion!

Paul Woodrum

Marriage is marriage is marriage. Why reinvent the rite, “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage,” already provided for in The Book of Common Prayer, pp 433,434? Could there be some lingering bias, even at The University of the South, that divides those committing matrimony into different classes?

Daingerfield Ashton

Your rational loving approach is greatly appreciated, divisiveness and rejection of Christ’s teaching of a loving shepherd has hurt and driven many from that very love

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